Monthly Archives: June, 2006

The Gap Featuring Tops & Bottoms

Wage Gap Cartoon by Signe

In the event that you were somehow under the misapprehension that The Gap was merely a large retailer specializing in trendy clothing produced in sweatshops, allow me to enlighten you on the gap of which I truly speak: The Wage Gap. Yesterday, the Center for Economic and Policy Research issued a press release in response to a proposal to raise the federal minimum wage:

The federal minimum wage is at its lowest point in 50 years. Congress has not raised the minimum wage in a decade. As of December 2006, this will be the longest time Congress has ever gone without raising the minimum wage.

According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, increasing the federal minimum wage to $7.25 per hour over the next 26 months — as proposed by Sen. Edward Kennedy in an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization bill — would raise the annual earnings of the average full-time, full-year, minimum-wage worker by $1,520.

Raising the minimum wage is only the first step in helping families to make ends meet. First, it is important to recognize that a substantial share of minimum wage workers are adults making significant contributions to the total family income. In the early 2000s, fewer than one-in-five minimum wage workers was under the age of 20 and half were between ages 25 and 54. In 2002, minimum wage workers earned an average of 68 percent of their total family income. [full text and graph]

Of course, as noted by the Center for Policy Alternatives, “[a]n individual who works full-time at the current minimum wage earns about $10,700 a year—$5,900 below the 2006 poverty line for a family of three, and $9,300 below the poverty line for a family of four.� Thus, even with an increase to $7.25/hour, the minimum wage will still fail to be a living wage for a great many families. Now, contrast this data with what’s happening on the other end of the economic spectrum, as reported this past April by Derrick Z. Jackson in the Boston Globe:

Income Gap Mentality

AS TREASURY SECRETARY John Snow meandered through his thoughts about the pay gap between CEOs and workers, it brought back memories of 1992 when the first President Bush toured a mock-up of a grocery checkout counter, watched a carton of milk, a lightbulb, and some candy ring up via a scanner and said about the technology, ”This is for checking out?”

The scanner came to mind because, as the average American worker watches corporate America slash pensions and healthcare, as the average American has seen real wages decline in the last quarter century, and as the average American family has to work harder to maintain the standard of living it inherited, Snow talked about this as if it were not much of a problem.

He told Globe reporters and editors yesterday that the pay gap was symbolic of the nation’s ”aspirational” compensation system, a star system in which, for example, top baseball players are paid $30 million. But he thinks that the US economy shows there is still plenty of trickle-down money to go around, making our country one that still ”shares the spoils of the game….”

All we are left with is our aspirations in a game where the average share of the American dream is being spoiled. The Institute for Policy Studies and United for a Fair Economy, the two liberal think tanks that annually chart the gap between CEOs and workers, currently list the gap at 431-to-1, or $11.8 million to $27,460. That compares with a gap of 107-to-1 in 1990. If salaries of the average worker had kept up with that of a CEO, he or she would be making $110,136. Had the minimum wage risen at the same pace as CEO compensation, it would stand today at $23.01. The federal minimum wage of $5.15 has not risen since 1997.

In 1980, the gap was only 42-to-1. Where the spoils go are quite clear. According to 2005 federal data from the Congressional Budget Office, the share of America’s income that went to the highest 20 percent of households increased from 45.5 percent in 1979 to 52.2 percent in 2003. The remaining 80 percent of American households all saw their share of the nation’s income drop.

The higher you go in that top 20 percent, the more the rise in their share of the income. The top 1 percent of Americans saw their share of America’s income zoom from 9.3 percent in the last quarter century to 14.3 percent. The top 10 percent saw their share go from 30.5 percent to 37.2 percent.

How Snow thinks that 10 percent of Americans holding 37 percent of the income represents a sharing of the spoils is checkout-counter economics. His claim falls especially short considering that 46 of the nation’s 275 largest companies, according to the Institute for Policy Studies, the United for a Fair Economy, and another liberal think-tank, Citizens for Tax Justice, paid no federal income tax in 2003. Eighty-two of the largest 275 companies paid no federal income tax at some point during 2001-2003 as the current President Bush cut taxes for the wealthy. [full text]

In case you were curious, Gap, Inc.—which is currently ranked 139th among the Fortune 500 companies—did apparently pay federal income taxes during the aforementioned time period. Don’t you feel better now? So what if this country would prefer to wage war rather than war about wages and inequality. So what if some 37 million Americans and nearly 18 percent of all children in this country are living in poverty. So what if a sizable number (1/3 to 1/2) of those seeking emergency food assistance are among the working poor. Let them eat cake.

Moms Wanted — Fantasy Salary Range: 85K to 134K

Perhaps this will provide consolation for moms and dads who are feeling underappreciated and devalued for the time they spend with their little ones.Salary.com has a breakdown of what mothers (or fathers) would be paid if they were to be paid for all the various jobs they do in their role of parenting their children.

MSM Lovefest over Blogs May Be Ending Soon

And at the Projo, I’m not sure the lovefest ever really got started. References to blogs are few and far between in the Projo, so imagine my surprise when I found today’s column by Froma Harrop, in which she warns Ned Lamont of the great evils that will befall him should he drink too heavily from the martini fountain of the liberal blogosphere.

Blogs are doing a great many things to affect modern communication. They offer an unprecedented diversity of voices for the avid reader. They also offer an amazing diversity of emphasis, with their writers often blending their professional and personal life into their own unique brand of citizen journalism. I would also argue that blogs are changing our language, that new words are being introduced at a faster rate, and that *punctuation in writing* is being taken in all sorts of new directions. Finally, blogs are about passion. Most of us are not doing it because it’s our job and if we don’t we won’t get paid. We’re doing it because we honest-to-beeswax care.

In politics, Blogger Cenk Uygar argues that blogs are a leading indicator of where the country is likely heading. The problem as indicators go is that blogs tend to be way ahead of the trend, so that most people think they sound kind of “out there” when they are often telling people something that they will eventually come to believe. From Cenk Uygar:

Currently, the political blogs are seen as agitators and outsiders. That’s true now. But that doesn’t mean it will stay true through all of time. In fact, not only do blogs have a bright future, but they are an indication of what the future might hold for the whole political system.

People who read blogs are among the most politically educated people in the country. They care to know what’s happening in current events and politics. So, they knew there was no link between Al Qaeda and Iraq well before the general population. Not because they were privy to some secret information, but because they cared to find out right away.

The facts always catch up to the American people. But sometimes it takes awhile. Bush didn’t earn his 30% approval rating over the last year and a half, he did that in the last five and a half years. It just took awhile for the general population to catch up to what the bloggers and blog readers already knew about.

Because blogs are relatively small and new to the scene, they are the classic Cassandras of their time — an army of independent thinkers who are often perceptive enough to portend the future, with the tragic fate of not being listened to or believed. I distinctly remember telling a friend, a school teacher, about how we were publishing an article on fuel cells in the second issue of Kmareka back in July 2002. I told her that the country would be moving toward alternative fuels. She laughed and said, “You’re kidding, right?” I wasn’t. And while fuel cells for cars are not on the market yet, look for ethanol to be coming to a gas station near you very soon.

While some of the lefty blogs have shrill, angry moments (a side effect of being a Cassandra), another significant thing that blogs do is reject the mainstream media as the best source for accurate information about politics. This means politicians of every stripe get scrutinized. Even the shrillest lefty blogs show little loyalty to the Democrats as a whole, and are often willing to criticize sleazy Dems and Dems who have abandoned positions consistent with the basic principles of the party.

So that Froma Harrop is suggesting that blogs are a dangerous medium with which to associate yourself as a political candidate is the kind of thinking that many old school consultants to Democratic party are likely telling candidates like Sheldon Whitehouse and Ned Lamont. The natural tendency of people to be wary of change corroborates their argument. But the larger story is that blogs are here and they’re here to stay. Why? Because they serve a marketable function that the mainstream corporate media does not.

Harrop’s piece suggests that bloggers have a lot of weight to throw around in the world of politics, and this may not be a good thing for Dems. John Dickerson at Slate begs to differ, suggesting that blogs should not believe the hype that the mainstream media has put them through for the past few years. From John Dickerson at Slate:

It’s not in bloggers’ short-term interest to knock down the story of their own throw-weight, but it may be to their long-term benefit. Not only do bloggers lose standing as critics if they stop being critical, but insufficient wariness will lead to an inevitable messy breakup. Media infatuations never last. When expectations get too high, the press reverses itself, because one of the laws of journalism is that the story has to change. In this case, political reporters will turn on bloggers if the promised revolution doesn’t materialize in the form of a Democratic sweep in the midterms. We are probably just under five months away from a wave of coverage positing that bloggers weren’t that powerful after all. After we build up the Markos regime, we will help to tear it down.

Aw, Rats!

It was only a matter of time before scientists tackled the problem of why gutter rats like Tom DeLay, Karl Rove, Bill O’Reilly, and Rush Limbaugh (to name just a few) thrive while more clean-living folks seem to do less well. AP science writer Seth Borenstein reports on a pair of recent studies suggesting that cleanliness may be next to godliness but not necessarily healthiness:

Rat Study Shows Dirty Better Than Clean

Gritty rats and mice living in sewers and farms seem to have healthier immune systems than their squeaky clean cousins that frolic in cushy antiseptic labs, two studies indicate. The lesson for humans: Clean living may make us sick.

The studies give more weight to a 17-year-old theory that the sanitized Western world may be partly to blame for soaring rates of human allergy and asthma cases and some autoimmune diseases, such as Type I diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. The theory, called the hygiene hypothesis, figures that people’s immune systems aren’t being challenged by disease and dirt early in life, so the body’s natural defenses overreact to small irritants such as pollen.

The new studies, one of which was published Friday in the peer reviewed Scandinavian Journal of Immunology, found significant differences in the immune systems between euthanized wild and lab rodents.

When the immune cells in the wild rats are stimulated by researchers, “they just don’t do anything they sit there; if you give them same stimulus to the lab rats, they go crazy,” said study co-author Dr. William Parker, a Duke University professor of experimental surgery. He compared lab rodents to more than 50 wild rats and mice captured and killed in cities and farms.

Also, the wild mice and rats had as much as four times higher levels of immunoglobulins, yet weren’t sick, showing an immune system tuned to fight crucial germs, but not minor irritants, Parker said. He said what happened in the lab rats is what likely occurs in humans: their immune systems have got it so cushy they overreact to the smallest of problems. more…

Who’d’ve thunk it? I’m living in the immunological equivalent of a gated community. So how come the neighborhood’s in such disrepair and the place is looking more and more like a police state?

Red, White, And Blue Displays

Vervet monkey showing off

When confronted with a potential threat to their status or territory, alpha male primates will typically seek to assert their dominance by, in effect, strutting their stuff and putting on a show, i.e., engaging in ritualized behavior that is highly demonstrative and largely symbolic. Consider the following case examples:

EXAMPLE #1

Vervet monkeys are diurnal and gregarious. Within the troops there is a clear order of dominance with an Alpha male as leader. Rank-order within the troop is maintained by threat and skill. Eyelid display as a threat gesture is common among Vervet monkeys….Head bobbing or jerking is another warning gesture….

An interesting form of display is the penile display made by adult and sub-adult male Vervets to one another. Although variations occur, usually one male approaches another which is seated, stands bipedal in front of him with his inguinal region directed toward, and close to the seated male’s face. Sometimes the displayer has a penile erection throughout the encounter. Occasionally grooming follows this display. Only dominant Vervets display this behavior and it’s significance is to show off his potency and leadership.

The dominant male also holds his tail erect while pacing back and forth displaying his red peri-anus, his blue scrotum and the white medial strip of fur extending between the peri-anus and the scrotum. The subordinate male responds to this display by sitting hunched or crouching and uttering a series of specific grunts and squawks.

EXAMPLE #2

In a vote charged with election-year politics, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a symbolic resolution on Friday that wrapped the Iraq conflict into the war on terrorism and rejected a deadline for U.S. troop withdrawal. The House voted 256-153 for the resolution that sparked two days of bitter debate as Republicans sought to depict Democrats as weak on terrorism, while Democrats decried President George W. Bush’s policies that they said led to chaos in Iraq and detracted from the fight against al Qaeda.

EXAMPLE #3

The Senate Judiciary Committee gave a nod Thursday to a constitutional amendment to protect the Amer ican flag from desecration, moving the proposal to the Senate floor, where vote-counters on both sides say it could be within one vote of passing. The committee’s 11-7 vote sent the amendment to the floor. Majority Leader Bill Frist, Republican of Tennessee, has said the measure will get a Senate vote this month. The amendment will be considered during the patriotic season between this week’s Flag Day and the Fourth of July, and its substance and timing are designed to appeal to veterans during this year of midterm elections.

What more is there to say? The monkeys are in charge of the zoo.

The Rules are the Rules — Unless You’re Judge Napolitano

One of our Democratic candidates for Mayor in Cranston is showing his true colors, it seems:

The rules are the rules. They are supposed apply to everyone. But one Cranston man is arguing: It depends who you are.

NBC 10′s Margie O’Brien reported that David Mignacca has a huge gripe with a candidate for mayor.

“I’m not going to vote for the guy who made my kids cry,” Mignacca said.

Mike Napolitano was part of a group that forced the Mignaccas to remove Sonny, their son’s pet horse, from their property five years ago.

The group said the miniature horse violated rule No. 8 in the Ridgewood Homeowners Association rulebook.

“If he felt as though it was so important to be part of this group that enforced this chapter on no animals, then why does he not feel it to be equally important from him to abide by the chapter previous to it — seven — that says, ‘Signs. No signs of any kind shall be displayed?’” Mignacca said.

Rule No. 7 on the deed clearly says no signs except for temporary “for sale” signs.

But right on the front lawn of Napolitano’s house is a political sign.

“I’m following the rules as far as the interpretation goes,” Napolitano said.

But the language of the homeowners’ agreement is clear, O’Brien reported. The state Supreme Court used the same language to rule that Sonny had to go.

Napolitano is counting on the founding fathers to justify his argument for why the sign should stay.

“There’s a First Amendment constitutional right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression to put up signs,” Napolitano said.

“What’s good for the geese is good for the gander,” Mignacca said.

So, while Sonny is living down the street on a farm, the sign remains.

“I will keep my signs up,” Napolitano said.

Fortunately, there are alternatives to Mr. Napolitano, including Cindy Fogarty and Allan Fung, both of whom have served diligently on the Cranston City Council for 4 years and have a wealth of knowledge of what is going on in city, what solutions have worked, and where the sticking points are.

Regards to Cranston2 whose post alerted me to this.

UPDATE: According to Channel 10, Napolitano has now taken the signs down.

Stop the Assault on Privacy in Rhode Island

From Geoff Schoos, lawyer and Democratic candidate for Rhode Island State Senate:

On June 1, 2006, the Rhode Island State Senate, without comment or debate, and without one dissenting vote, passed S-2450 entitled “An Act Relating to Public Utilities and Carriers.� This seemingly innocuous bill poses a clear and distinct threat to the privacy rights of all Rhode Islanders.

If enacted into law, this legislation would permit any “government entity� to obtain the “name, address, local and long-distance telephone connection records, or records of session times and durations, telephone or instrument number or other subscriber number or identity including any temporarily assigned network address, length of service (including start date), and means and sources of payment for such service (including any credit card or bank account number), of a subscriber to, or customer of, such service when the governmental entity uses an administrative subpoena authorized by the superintendent of the state police, a chief of police, or the attorney general.�

As defined in the legislation, the term “types of service utilized� includes information concerning the actual provision of electronic communication service or remote computing service such as cable, modem, dial-up, digital subscriber line, but does not include content based information that would otherwise be subject to a state or federal search warrant.

From the language of the bill and the lack of any discussion by any state senator, I would have to conclude that the state senate has determined that a person’s privacy interests do not attach to one’s bank account, credit card number, telephone number, internet use, records of telephone calls, or any other subscriber information.

The legislation passed by the state senate expands the scope and power of a statute already in effect. R.I.G.L. § 39-2-20 requires carriers to “disclose to the attorney general, or any assistant attorney general specially designated by the attorney general or any chief of police, the director of the statewide fugitive task force or the superintendent of state police the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of persons to whom nonpublished service is furnished upon written certification …� (italics added for emphasis) that the information is necessary for the investigation of or prosecution of criminal violations of the laws of Rhode Island.

Compare the existing statute with S-2450: the statute permits a limited grant of power to specific government officials to obtain limited information on persons certified to be targets of a criminal investigation or a criminal prosecution. The senate bill permits any governmental entity, without any certification of any kind, to obtain information beyond the scope of a customer’s usage of a carrier’s service.

This ambiguous and overbroad grant of power to a “government entity� is rife with the potential for abuse. For example, just what is a governmental entity – is it a state or local entity? For what purpose is this information obtained? Why is it necessary to obtain credit information and bank account numbers and how will that information be used? The senate bill never says.

Perhaps the most egregious part of the legislation is that the primary means for gathering information for use in an investigation is the issuance of an administrative subpoena. There is no requirement that a search warrant, based on probable cause and approved by a neutral third party magistrate be issued and properly served in order to obtain the desired information.

Moreover, in S-2450, there is no provision for any third party review of the facts to determine whether there is any basis to invade the privacy of a customer’s telephone and internet records. Rather, the senate bill permits law enforcement officials to authorize the issuance of an administrative subpoena. But, permitting law enforcement officials to act in an “oversight� capacity is misleading – these same law enforcement officials are most likely going to be involved, in some manner, with any investigation being conducted by the “government entity.� In other words, law enforcement officials are charged with the responsibility of determining the merits and legality of their own investigations. That is blatant bootstrapping and stands over two hundred and fifty years of developed legal doctrine on its head.

Perhaps most abusive of all is the fact that an administrative subpoena is being used as a substitute for a search warrant. Under Rhode Island’s statutory scheme and relevant case law, such subpoenas are issued by administrative agencies pursuant to hearings or disputes that come before them. In such instances, all relevant parties are aware of the dispute and are able to contest the validity of the subpoena. However, under the provisions of S-2450, the true target of any investigation, the telephone or internet customer, may never be aware that his/her records are subpoenaed, let alone have an opportunity to protest the invasion of his/her privacy.

Proponents of S-2450 argue that the legislation is needed because it is too cumbersome to obtain a search warrant through established processes. But, that’s the point; the “cumbersome� nature of the process is deliberate and serves as a check on the misuse of governmental authority against the citizens.

The state senate, rather than protecting the public from a possible abuse of governmental power, ignored a citizen’s privacy interests and obliterated the requirement that probable cause be determined prior to any seizure of a citizen’s papers. And all this without the utterance of one question or the casting of one dissenting vote.

In February, 1761, James Otis of Massachusetts argued in court against the enforcement of writs of assistance that permitted customs officials, without a warrant, to enter the homes of citizens. Otis considered the invasion by government officials of a person’s home, and thus his privacy, to be the supreme form of arbitrary government power. It was the argument that Otis made in 1761 that served as the basis for the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.

Nearly two hundred and fifty years later, the Rhode Island state senate enacted its own version of the old writs of assistance. Rhode Island was the last of the thirteen original states to ratify the Constitution, in part because the original document contained no specific protections against the arbitrary use of government power. The Bill of Rights helped overcome Rhode Island’s reluctance to ratify the Constitution, and thus a nation was born. Now, in its zeal to combat crime, the state senate granted government entities broad unspecified powers to conduct investigations.

The state senate would have done well to remember the admonition of Benjamin Franklin: Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.

I urge you to call or email your state representative and fight for your right to privacy.

New Englander Named Poet Laureate

In honor of fellow New Englander, Donald Hall, who remains a strong advocate for freedom of expression, being named the nation’s poet laureate, here is a selection of his verse:

AFFIRMATION

To grow old is to lose everything.
Aging, everybody knows it.
Even when we are young,
we glimpse it sometimes, and nod our heads
when a grandfather dies.
Then we row for years on the midsummer
pond, ignorant and content. But a marriage,
that began without harm, scatters
into debris on the shore,
and a friend from school drops
cold on a rocky strand.
If a new love carries us
past middle age, our wife will die
at her strongest and most beautiful.
New women come and go. All go.
The pretty lover who announces
that she is temporary
is temporary. The bold woman,
middle-aged against our old age,
sinks under an anxiety she cannot withstand.
Another friend of decades estranges himself
in words that pollute thirty years.
Let us stifle under mud at the pond’s edge
and affirm that it is fitting
and delicious to lose everything.

—Donald Hall

The Wandering Journalist: No Room at the Inn

Last week, The Los Angeles Times announced that it would be laying off an unspecified number of employees — the rumor is 60 editorial staff and 120 employees all together. The Washington Post announced that 70 newsroom staff would be taking early retirements. In other journalism wipe-out news, Time Magazine recently laid off 650 employees. The Village Voice closed its Washington bureau and fired veteran reporter James Ridgeway. And here in Li’l Rhody, several of the local bureaus for the Projo have been consolidated into the home office in Providence. Though I’m not aware of any layoffs at the Projo, you have to wonder if it isn’t inevitable.

See a pattern here? Corporate media is struggling to make a profit, and the result is shrinking news capacity. This means — among other things — that journalists will be joining the ranks of the unemployed, or else trying for the ever-elusive blog stardom of the handful of bloggers who make enough money to survive.

It also means that average people have less information advocates doing the hard work of finding out what is happening in our world. That the Rhode Island Senate recently passed legislation to give the police full access to people’s phone and internet records without a warrant, and that this fact occurred without any media (that I saw) reporting on it beforehand, might be an indication that our journalists are spread too thin and that we do not have adequate watchdogs in the media alerting the public to what’s going on in the General Assembly.

So here’s to the blogs, and to the journalists still left at the big media outlets, who face daunting work and the demoralizing reminder that their job security is just a pink slip away.

RI Fights for Privacy: No Snooping Without a Warrant

Yesterday it appeared from the headlines of the Providence Journal that Rhode Island was entering a Twilight Zone of Republican authoritarianism — suddenly we learn that the Senate has already passed legislation that would allow the police to have full access to people’s phone and internet records including their credit card numbers without a warrant.

However, it appears that enough people — including the Governor and the ACLU — had the guts to pick up the phone and tell the government that they would appreciate a little respect for the Fourth Amendment. Consequently, this legislation is now being rewritten. However, the rewrite is apparently still going to allow police to get access to people’s internet records without a warrant.

Um, NOT ACCEPTABLE!!! Here is the list of all Rhode Island House of Representative email addresses and phone numbers. Time to pick up the phone and talk about privacy with your elected official, before your privacy no longer exists.

From the Projo:

PROVIDENCE — After a barrage of criticism from civil-liberities advocates, the state police yesterday agreed to changes in legislation before the General Assembly so it clearly would not give the police the right to obtain Rhode Islanders’ telephone records without a warrant.

But although the state police wanted to press on with a legislative hearing and possible committee vote today, Governor Carcieri intervened, saying he was concerned about civil liberties. By the end of the day, the House leadership put off consideration of the legislation for at least a week.

Carcieri said through a spokesman that he won’t support a bill that doesn’t address the concerns civil-liberties advocates have raised about the state police proposals.

One state police bill had passed the Senate and was scheduled, with a second similar bill, for hearings and perhaps a vote today in the House Judiciary Committee. But Larry Berman, the leadership spokesman, said, “They haven’t been able to work out the language yet.” The bills might be considered next week, Berman said.

It wasn’t clear yesterday what the legislation will say if it reappears. As written, the two bills from the state police would let any police chief obtain records, including local and long-distance telephone connection records, directly from communications companies, along with records of the time and length of Internet sessions.

The state police said that the original legislation wouldn’t include records of conventional phone calls, but lawyers familiar with that area of law flatly contradicted the assertion in an article The Journal published yesterday.

Those lawyers said that the state police bills would actually let any police chief obtain records of customers’ calls, including who was called, when and for how long.

Where the police now have to convince a judge that there is probable cause to believe a crime has been or is likely to be committed, the bills include no standards beyond a statement from any of the state’s police chiefs that the information was “necessary for an investigation.”

The critics said the bills contained no mechanism for keeping track of the demands, or administrative subpoenas, as the bills describe them, and no way for anyone to discover — ever — how many were issued or whose records were the target.

The state police say they need the information in order to discover who owns Internet accounts used to commit fraud and other crimes. They say that getting a warrant is too cumbersome and takes too long (several hours), which undermines their efforts to deal with increasing numbers of complaints about complicated Internet crimes.

Yesterday morning, Maj. Steven O’Donnell said the state police would agree to amending the bills to eliminate the references to telephone calls, but would continue to ask the legislature for permission to obtain customers’ Internet records without review by a judge.

Yesterday afternoon, however, Carcieri’s press secretary, Jeff Neal, said the governor’s concerns go beyond the apparent inclusion of telephone records along with Internet records, and include the lack of oversight, which the American Civil Liberties Union and others have also objected to. Neal said the governor communicated that yesterday to Col. Steven M. Pare, the state police commander.

The legislation had been on the brink of General Assembly approval. Presented as affecting only Internet records, the Senate bill needed only House approval. If the legislation is amended, both houses will have to approve the new language.

Civil-liberties advocates weren’t satisfied with the changes said to be under way yesterday, because they would still let any Rhode Island police chief get customers’ records from Internet service providers for the asking.

Steven Brown, executive director of the Rhode Island Affiliate of the ACLU, said that without oversight of the police by an outside party, the result would still amount to “the same invasion of privacy” as the original bill, just covering less material.

The issue, meanwhile, was picked up by at least one political campaign.

Carl Sheeler, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, said the legislation “brings us to the brink of a Soviet-style police state.” He called the bills “a stain on our constitutional rights of privacy” and said they offer a major opportunity for abuse.

Go Carl! Interestingly, none of our other Senate candidates seem to be able to come up with a response to this outrage. It seems that some of them may have disappeared into cautious-politician-land and won’t be reachable again until after the election.

Hat tip to Allhatnocattle.net for the Bush Twilight Zone image.

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